India

Orissa Super Cyclone Situation Report 1

United Nations Disaster Management Team , New Delhi
Introduction

A super cyclone with wind speed reaching upto 260 KMPH hit the coastal districts of Orissa on 29 October 1999. The whole state was cut off from the rest of the world for about 48 hrs due to damages caused to communication and transport links in the state. Telecom links with 5 districts were partly restored by 1 November 1999.

The Government of India at the highest level was closely monitoring the preparatory activities aever since the India Meteorological Department detected the cyclone formation. In order monitor the situation in Orissa and relief activities, the control room at the Ministry of Agriculture was upgraded as an inter-departmental control room. The National Crisis Management Committee, under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary, has been meeting regularly to review the relief activities. As per the latest Reports, certain key feeder roads and railway tracks have been cleared. This has facilitated movement of goods and relief teams to areas that were cut off. The extent of damage caused due to the cyclone would be known only after the relief teams reach all the affected areas and the water recedes.

The districts affected and the damage caused as per official estimates are the following:

Sr. No
District
No of affected Villages
No.of deaths
Affected Population
Damage to crops
1
Balsore
-
-
-
-
2
Bhadrak
-
10
-
-
3
Jajpur
-
-
-
-
4
Kendrapara
-
15
-
-
5
Jagatsinghpur
-
-
-
-
6
Khurda
-
6
-
-
7
Puri
-
49
-
-
8
Cuttak
-
39
-
-
9
Nayagarh
-
2
-
-
Total
122
3805000
-


As per unofficial estimates, 5000 people are either dead or missing and about 10 million people are affected.

Measures taken by the Government

The Inter-ministerial/departmental group involved with the control room meets twice a day (100 hrs and 1800 hrs) to review the actions taken, and to plan the course of action. The Government of India has issued orders to other state governments and public sector units to assist the Orissa Government with whatever resources they can provide. Some of the measures taken are :

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has provided about 250 tonnes of dry food items, which were shipped from the Vizag port through 5 vessels. Four of these vessels have already reached Paradip and further shipment through road and rail are in progress. The Government of Andhra Pradesh has also deployed 100 engineers to clear the roadblocks.

As per the plans, about 4000 tonnes of food items would be transported to the affected areas from 2 November on wards. These items are from the neighbouring states and from the Central Government. Medical supplies containing 400,000 halogen tablets, 48 tonnes of medical stores, 30 tonnes of bleaching powder, and medical teams, including 15 doctors were sent to Orissa. In order facilitate movement of goods and relief teams to Orissa, the Indias Railways is running a daily special train to Orissa, leaving Delhi at 2200 hrs.

The Central Government has also dispatched to Orissa 20 sets of satellite telephones and Diesel Generator sets. Also, teams of officers from the Railways, Ministry of Surface Transport and several engineers to restore rail, road and other communication links have been deployed.

There are reports about law and order problems in Orissa. The affected people who could not get food and water for the last few days have resorted to looting supply vehicles and attacking relief teams. The Government has deployed armed forces to restore peace.

The Prime Minister has declared this disaster as a National Calamity of rare severity and has released Rs. 300 Crores to the State Government.

Role of United Nations

The United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT), consisting of UN agencies such as FAO, UNDP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM, WFP and WHO, has been maintaining close touch with the control room and the additional relief commissioner. An emergency meeting of the UNDMT was convened on 1 November 1999 to discuss the possible involvement of UN Agencies in relief and rehabilitation activities in Orissa. It was decided that the UN Agencies would observe the developments in the state and, in consultation with the national and state Governments, provide relief materials to the state. The UN Disaster Management Team would meet every day during 1300-1400 hrs to review the situation and to coordinate the activities. The second meting was held on 2 November.

Focal points for interaction with the Central Government, State Government, bilaterals and NGO community were identified. The UNDMT would also prepare situation reports on a regular basis and share these with donor community.

Dr. Brenda Gael McSweeney, UN Resident Coordinator in India has written to the Chief Minister of Orissa expressing the feelings of UN Agencies in India and has offered to provide assistance to the Government. UNDP Associate Administrator, currently in India also expressed the interest of UNDP in providing the required assistance.

UNDMT had meetings with the officials of the Government of India and discussed possible involvement of UN agencies in providing relief to the affected population and in medium term rehabilitation activities. The Policy of the Government of India is not to appeal for international assistance for relief activities. However, when the UNDMT expressed the interest of UN Agencies to provide assistance to Orissa the Government accepted the offer and also agreed to send free-of-cost any material that would be made available.

The Orissa Government, through the chief Ministries Office in Bhubaneshwar and Resident Commissioner in Delhi, has requested UN to supply relief materials on an emergency basis. UNICEF and other UN Agencies are involved in the procurement and transportation of these items to the state. In order to identify the requirements in Orissa, DMT recommended an assessment of the needs and identify the items that can be provided by the UN Agencies. A lit of items being procured by UNICEF is attached.

The state office of UNICEF in Orissa is being strengthened by sending one UNICEF staff member from Maharashtra and two WFP staff members from Calcutta. UNICEF office and staff are safe. UNDMT is in daily telephone contact with the UNICEF office in Orissa. The UN Security team in Delhi is closely monitoring the law and order situation in Bhubaneshwr.

UNICEF has obtained from the Government of India and their headquarters clearance to open a trust fund to mobilise resources for the Orissa cyclone project. The UNDMT also stressed the importance to work closely with the donor community and it was decided to share UNDMT Situation Reports (SITREPS) with the bilateral organizations and NGO community.

To assist the UNDMT in India, the Office for Coordinating Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Geneva, is sending a four member mission to make an on-the-spot assessment of the requirements and identify areas of support (short and medium term) by the UN Agencies. The team would also identify the requirements for rehabilitation of the affected population. The Report of this team would be shared with the State and Central Governments, and if required, UN would mobilize resources from international donor community for the rehabilitation activities. The team from Geneva would reach Delhi on 3 November and would proceed to Orissa on 4 November 1999. This team would work closely with the UNICEF office in Bhubaneswar. Representative of other UN Agencies may also join this mission.

UNICEF representative reported to UNDMT that during his discussion with the bilateral agencies. Many of these agencies expressed interest to be involved in relief activities in Orissa. It was decided to maintain regular exchange of information with the bilateral agencies to identify areas of mutual cooperation. WFP representative, who had meetings with CARE, OXFAM, etc, informed that many of the NGOs showed interest in UN activities. The UNDMT requested WFP representative to participate in the review meetings of select NGOs and communicate to them UN activities in connection with the Orissa cyclone.

The next meeting on UNDMT would be held on 3 November.

Issued on 2 November 1999